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Sinn Féin MLA Carál Ní Chuilín has welcomed plans to establish a Social Care Fair Work Forum. 

The North Belfast MLA said: 

“I welcome the announcement by the Health Minister to establish a Social Care Fair Work Forum which would to support and develop the social care workforce. 

“I will be writing to the Minister asking for further details on the purpose of the forum, especially in absence of the Minister not bringing forward safe staffing legislation. 

“It is vital that the Minister provides further clarification around the health and wellbeing of staff. 

“As most staff are female the issue of pay, as well as terms and conditions in workplace need to be resolved also. 

“A lot of these services have been delivered by staff who have been at the frontline in battling Covid-19 and I would expect the Minister to acknowledge this as well as discussing what the recovery plans are with the staff and their trades unions.” 

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Defence, John Brady TD, has expressed his deep concern over reports from refugee camps on the Greek island of Lesbos, of the continuing hardship and suffering being endured by those held there.

Teachta Brady said:

“In September 2020, the refugee camp at Moria was destroyed by  fire; which left 12,000 refugees without shelter. Since then it has been argued that if anything, conditions have actually deteriorated.

"In one of a number of camps on Lesbos, there are 7,000 refugees forced to share 36 showers. The conditions are, to say the least, wretched.

"I have received reports of one woman, driven beyond the edge of despair, who resorted to setting herself on fire in an act of desperation. For this she faced criminal charges for the damage caused by the fire.

"We have children as young as two years old self-harming.In one harrowing incident, an eight-year-old child attempted suicide.

"We need to remember though that what is happening to these refugees is a consequence of a politically driven policy, which the Irish government is complicit in.

"The strategy of the EU is that life for refugees in the camps is made so unendurable, so wretched, so deplorable that it will act as a deterrent, that the message will go out that from the camps, that any attempt to seek refuge, to seek safety, to escape the violence is doomed to failure.

"I acknowledge that the Irish government has agreed to take fifty refugees in family units and a smaller number of unaccompanied minors, but this is absolutely insufficient.

"The failure of the Irish government to act, its complicity in EU policy that sees these refugees housed in totally atrocious conditions has real consequences.

"People are suffering, people are dying. Families are being torn apart. The mental and physical toll on those that survive, particularly children is horrific.

"Ireland is a leading voice on the world stage, it is a member of the UN Security Council, and a key member of the EU. Yet their failure of these refugees is an indictment of this government. The government needs to step up and act.”

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“EU Parliament could save money and cut emissions by staying in Brussels” -  Chris MacManus MEP

Sinn Fein MEP accuses EU of Climate Action Hypocrisy as talk of Strasbourg return grows

Sinn Féin MEP Chris MacManus has said the Covid situation has shown that the EU Parliament can and should work form Brussels alone and that the environment and EU taxpayer would benefit.

MacManus said:

“In two separate reports last week I was happy to unambiguously support a single seat for the European Parliament. Before Covid the parliament travelled to Strasbourg each month in a costly exercise in terms of money and carbon footprint. Having become an MEP only since the pandemic began I’ve never been to Strasbourg and see no reason to go.”

The Midlands Northwest MEP called for action, “MEPs have made it clear that staying in Brussels is the majority view of the parliament. Unfortunately, it would take action at government level to change the situation but it should happen.”

MacManus accused the EU of sending mixed messages in terms of climate action. “The EU weakens its case for environmental reforms when it contributes so needlessly to its own carbon footprint by insisting that MEPs work from two sites and thousands of staff shuttle between the two. Covid has shown how unnecessary this is. It is hypocritical to preach about Climate action whilst needlessly adding to the problem.”

The Sinn Féin MEP concluded by highlighting the staggering figures being wasted, “Last week we heard how the Court of Auditors estimates that moving from Strasbourg to Brussels could generate annual savings of EUR 114 million plus a one-off saving of EUR 616 million if the Strasbourg buildings are sold. The EU should act to end the traveling circus as soon as possible.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Finance Pearse Doherty TD has criticised the Government for locking a generation of renters and first-time buyers out of home ownership by maintaining a low tax regime for investment funds.

This tax regime has allowed investment funds to buy up swathes of new residential housing developments.

Sinn Féin have repeatedly called for the tax breaks and exemptions gifted to these funds and their shareholders by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to be closed and ended.

This comes after an international investment fund, Round Hill Capital, pushed out first-time buyers by buying up more than three quarters of a new residential housing development in Maynooth, Kildare.

Speaking today, Teachta Doherty said:

“Reports in the Business Post that an international investment firm was buying up most of a new 170-home estate in Maynooth is yet more evidence that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have totally lost control of the private housing market.

“In the teeth of a housing crisis, first-time buyers and renters are being locked out of the market by international investment funds that are buying up swathes of new builds and pushing up house prices.

“This is not happening by accident.

“These international investment funds enjoy massive tax breaks and tax exemptions that give them a huge advantage over first time buyers.

“They pay no corporation tax, no capital gains tax and little stamp duty.

“This is a regime created by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

“Year after year, Sinn Féin have submitted amendments to the Finance Bill to close down these tax loopholes so that investment funds could not crowd workers and families out of the housing market.

“Last year I submitted amendments to the Finance Bill concerning a number of these loopholes, with each one voted against by Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party.

“These parties have continually opposed efforts by Sinn Féin to close down the tax loopholes that they created.

“As a result, these investment funds are pushing first-time buyers out of the market, pushing up prices and rents, and then distributing dividends to their shareholders which are taxed at lower rates than most workers.

“The actions of the Government to favour these funds and work against the interests of first time buyers is deepening the housing crisis.

“Until there is a change of Government, this crisis will continue under Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.”

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Sinn Féin councillor Ciarán Beattie has welcomed support for a statue dedicated to Mary Ann McCracken on the grounds of Belfast City Hall.


Councillor Beattie said:

“Sinn Féin has been working proactively over the course of many years to ensure that Belfast City Hall is representative and reflective of all citizens of our city.

“An Equality Impact Assessment in 2012 clearly demonstrated that those depicted or commemorated in statues in the grounds of Belfast City Hall are predominantly from a white, male, unionist background.

“To address this imbalance Sinn Féin brought forward proposals in 2017 and I welcome that other parties have now moved to support proposals.

“Mary Ann McCracken is one of Belfast’s most famous daughters.  She was a leading Republican figure in the city around the time of the United Irishmen rebellion and also worked to support those most in need through Clifton House where she dedicated so much to feeding and sheltering the poor.

“It is only right and fitting that she is recognised at our City Hall.

“Sinn Féin will continue to work to ensure that Belfast City Hall is inclusive and representative of all our citizens.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Eoin Ó Broin TD has launched a Sinn Féin private members motion, which outlines a series of solutions that would end the crisis in the private rental sector.

Teachta Ó Broin said:

“The rental sector is still in crisis. This government is picking up where the last one left off. They have failed to properly regulate against unsustainable rent hikes, while failing to deliver affordable rental homes at the scale required.

“The average rent across the state is now €1,256 per month, with rents rising rapidly in areas outside Dublin and the commuter belt.

“The government has no plan for the rental sector. Sinn Féin do.

“In government, Sinn Féin would implement an emergency, three-year ban on rent increases and legislate for tenancies of indefinite duration.

“We would also introduce a refundable tax credit for tenants in the private rented sector to put a month’s rent back in every renters pocket. We would also ensure that all rental properties are compliant with minimum standards by introducing an NCT style certification system.

“There is action that can be taken to address the rental crisis. It just requires political will. This government has no plan to reduce rents, protect renters from further rent hikes or prioritise affordable rental supply."

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Sinn Féin MLA Nicola Brogan has called on the Agriculture Minister and Loughs Agency to launch an investigation into a pollution incident and fish kill on the Aughlish River in Tyrone. 

The West Tyrone MLA said: 

"The pollution incident on the Aughlish River between Dromore and Fintona resulted in thousands of fish being killed. 

"The environmental impact has been described as substantial by the Lough's Agency. 

"This river is a tributary of the Owenreagh and the Drumragh rivers which are important rivers in terms of fish and the eco-system. 

"My colleague Órfhlaith Begley MP has written to the Agriculture Minister to hold an investigation into this incident and I am also calling on the Loughs Agency to investigate as well in order to find out exactly what happened and what can be done about it." 

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Tourism Imelda Munster TD has called on the Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin to introduce a stimulus scheme to provide a much-needed boost to tourism and hospitality when the sectors can reopen later this year.

Teachta Munster’s comments follow the Minister for Finance’s announcement that he will not be replacing the government’s failed Stay and Spend Scheme for 2021.

Last summer, Sinn Féin launched a tourism and hospitality voucher scheme proposal, which would allocate €200 to every adult and €100 for every child to spend on tourism and hospitality in local economies across the state.

Teachta Munster said:

“Last summer, Sinn Féin launched a proposal to boost local economies across Ireland through a tourism and hospitality stimulus package. 

“Our detailed and fully costed plan would give workers and families a break by putting money back in their pockets, while also boosting local economies through increased spending in local tourism and hospitality.

“Our scheme would allocate a voucher worth €200 to every adult and €100 for every child to be spent locally in hospitality or tourism. This would mean families could have a day out at the zoo, a meal in a restaurant or put the voucher towards a holiday. It would boost local businesses by bringing in customers and help keep jobs in the local economy within industries that have been brought to their knees by the Covid restrictions.

“Many countries around the world have introduced stimulus schemes like these, which have been a huge success in supporting local economies and helping to rebuild post-Covid.

“Unfortunately, despite our scheme receiving the backing of many in these industries, the government ignored our proposals last year and instead opted for the flawed Stay and Spend Scheme which turned out to be a total flop.

“Less than 1% of the government scheme’s allocation was drawn down by 4th March and the scheme came to a close last week. Stay and Spend excluded a large number of low-earners, it was unfair, poorly targeted and ultimately was a complete failure.

“I am again calling on the government to consider Sinn Féin’s voucher proposals as a better and achievable way of boosting local economies instead.

“If this government genuinely wanted to help people to have a break this year and if they wanted to boost local economies, they would provide a new stimulus scheme like the one we have put forward. But they’re offering nothing.

“Sinn Féin’s voucher scheme is fair, it applies to everyone, it is straightforward and it puts money directly into people’s pockets to spend in local restaurants, tourist attractions or on accommodation.

“Every family, and every town and village in every corner of the state would benefit from our voucher scheme.

“The government’s scheme was a flop and it’s right that it wasn’t renewed, but the government is abandoning local businesses by simply walking away and offering no alternative.

“I am asking the Minister for Tourism to ensure that this doesn’t happen, and that a new stimulus scheme like Sinn Féin’s tourism voucher scheme is introduced this year.”

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Sinn Féin TD for Kildare North Réada Cronin TD has said she is deeply concerned by differences between a HSE response to an urgent Parliamentary Question concerning pregnant women and Covid-19 received on Friday, and comments made by the Master of the Rotunda Hospital in the Irish Independent this morning.

She has called on the Minister for Health and the HSE to clarify immediately.  

Teachta Cronin said:

"On Friday, the HSE wrote to me that pregnant women with Covid-19 are 'slightly more likely' to develop serious complications than non-pregnant women.

"But this morning, Professor Fergal Malone of the Rotunda Hospital is quoted saying in the Irish Independent that 'there are significant risks associated with Covid-19 in pregnancy in terms of the mother getting very sick and in terms of placentitis and potential stillbirths. Those are real, we have seen it time and time again.'

"Both these positions of ‘slight’ and ‘significant’ risk cannot be correct, and women need to know which position represents official public health advice.

"I have been seeking urgent information about Covid-19, pregnant women and ICU admissions, both from the Minister for Health and the HSE for some time now.

"I got the ‘slight’ response to one question and no reply at all to my detailed question regarding ICU admissions. I wrote again to the HSE on Friday seeking the numbers which have now been issued to the media, but which have not been issued in response to Parliamentary Questions. That is not acceptable.

"Pregnant women and the people who love them and treat them need to know what the HSE's position is, and the Minister for Health and the HSE need to clarify this immediately."

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Sinn Féin South Antrim MLA, Declan Kearney has condemned the overnight sectarian attack on the GAA centre of excellence at Dunsilly in Antrim Town.

Declan Kearney said:

“This was a mindless sectarian attack upon the County Antrim GAA Centre of Excellence at Dunsilly.

“Antrim GAA plays a proud role promoting inclusion and good community relations. By contrast, those responsible for this attack are sectarian bigots with nothing to offer society.

“A zero tolerance attitude is required towards the cancer of sectarianism in our community. This overnight attack should be treated by the PSNI as a hate crime.

“I have already registered my deep concerns with senior PSNI management about this incident, and asked for a briefing on the progress of police investigations later today.” 

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Sinn Féin National Chairperson Declan Kearney MLA has extended May Day solidarity greetings to Irish workers and the Labour Movement across the island on behalf of Sinn Féin.

The Junior Minister in the northern power sharing executive said:

“May Day is an important occasion internationally for workers and their families. It provides an annual focus to celebrate the achievement of fundamental workers’ rights and also remember those who made huge sacrifices in the course of labour struggles. 

“This is an opportunity to reflect on the value of workers, and recommit ourselves to the advancement of further rights and entitlements on their behalf.

“As some countries begin to emerge from the global pandemic a critical debate will be required about public health and how this is resourced in the future. It is a key discussion about the role of economic systems in serving the needs of citizens and society.

"Properly resourced public health systems are essential to the well-being of every nation. Doctors, nurses, paramedics, porters, and cleaners are the backbone of any health system. The bus drivers, refuse collectors, retail workers, teachers, dockers, and all other essential workers are the backbone of society.

“The value of Irish workers’ labour to the protection of our everyday lives is immeasurable. Without committed workforces, high quality public services would not exist. This reality is ignored by the policies of both the Tory government in London, and the Fianna Fáil/ Fine Gael/ Green Party coalition in Dublin.

“Irish workers, and their families, deserve good pay and decent working conditions. Workers’ basic rights are not negotiable. In Ireland, collective bargaining rights should be recognised in every sector and by all employers north and south. Precarious working practices must be eradicated within the workplace.

“In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic the Irish Congress of Trade Unions published the "No Going Back" policy proposals. This significant document sets out a roadmap for creating a better and fairer society in Ireland. Both the Irish government and northern power sharing executive should engage directly with Congress towards its implementation. 

“Irish workers and their families must not be made to pay the financial price for this pandemic. Future economic recovery programmes should not become the proxy for a new era of austerity. 

“International Workers’ Day 2021 also occurs at a time when the debate on future constitutional change in Ireland continues to gather momentum. The Irish Labour Movement should ensure that workers’ rights and economic equality are made central to this discussion, with the vision of the new, rights-based society envisioned by “No Going Back”.

“On behalf of Sinn Féin, I extend solidarity greetings to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, and to all workers and their families, in Ireland and internationally, this May Day weekend.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has said the PSNI must take action against illegal loyalist parades. 

Speaking after hundreds of loyalists marched through Coleraine tonight, the East Derry MLA said: 

“Sinn Féin will be raising the issue of illegal protests with the Chief Constable at the Policing Board, including tonight’s protest in Coleraine. 

“This was clearly an organised protest which saw hundreds of people on the streets and number of bands in a clear attempt to intimidate and raise tensions in the local community.  

“In recent weeks we have seen a number of these reckless and irresponsible protests taking place and the dangerous escalation of tensions has been very alarming.   

“I will be asking what evidence gathering the police engaged in and what action will be taken against the people involved.  

“I am calling on all political leaders to call for an end to any illegal protests.

“The PSNI also has a responsibility to police in a proactive and preventative manner to keeps communities safe.”

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Sinn Féin TD for Waterford David Cullinane has warmly welcomed news that Waterford Institute of Technology and IT Carlow have lodged an application to become a Technological University.

Speaking this evening, Teachta Cullinane said:

“The application by both institutes in the south-east to become a Technological University is fantastic news. I want to commend both presidents and board members in WIT and IT Carlow. A huge amount of work has gone into preparing this application.

“I have every confidence that this application will be a success. The International Panel of Experts has a job to do, but I have no doubt the application will meet their expectations.

“I welcome a commitment from Minister Simon Harris to provide substantial funding to increase the footprint of the Waterford campus. Waterford is now on the cusp of becoming a university city.

“This must be a university for the entire south-east. We need to inject further momentum into the process by mobilising the education, businesses and wider community in the region behind this exciting project, and to help deliver and promote the potential of a Technological University for the region.

“The Minister and both institutes need to engage further with the staff of both institutes of the TUI to address concerns and build confidence.

“I have asked the Minister to commence the process of appointing a new independent chairperson to kickstart the process of change management and governance arrangements that will be central to the TUSE success.

“This is a good day for the south-east and I look forward to working with others to ensure timely delivery for the people of the south-east.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Linda Dillon has slammed despicable and disrespectful remarks from a DUP Councillor on social media.

The Mid Ulster MLA said:

“Comments on social media from DUP councillor John Carson in reference to Michelle O’Neill are despicable and disrespectful.

“There is absolutely no place for this type of commentary. He should apologise immediately. 

“This is the latest in a series of outrageous and disgraceful outbursts about women from this particular DUP councillor.

“How long will this be allowed to continue? The DUP leadership should now take action against councillor Carson and distance themselves from these comments.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has called on the Minister for Health to urgently intervene to allow pregnant women to be supported by their partners at appointments and scans, for the full duration of labour, and at every opportunity where it can be safe to do so.

The Cork South Central TD said:

"Yesterday saw a lot of restrictions lifted, and that is great news. A lot of people can now do things they haven't been able to do for a long time.

"However, one group of people who feel desperately disappointed is pregnant women and their partners.

"My partner is 28 weeks pregnant and I was very much looking forward to being able to attend the next growth scan as the leaks on Wednesday seemed to suggest I could.

“What is really frustrating is that the government was trying to present yesterday as an easing of these restrictions, when as far as I'm concerned what was presented yesterday was already in place.

“The past number of months have been an extremely stressful and worrying time for all parents expecting a baby.

“I have heard many harrowing stories of the most difficult situations, of local women going to their appointments alone to find out the most awful of news, while their partner had to wait in the car.

“Sadly, this isn’t unthinkable or unimaginable, these are real women and these are real stories.

“You can imagine the relief felt by families when a plan was leaked on Wednesday night that promised access for partners to all scans and appointments.

“The reality is that attendance at a 20-week scan and during established labour, announced as a ‘new plan’ yesterday, was already in place in most hospitals.

“Expectant parents feel conned. The fact that the government hasn’t even attempted to properly explore options here - such as rapid antigen testing for partners - points to the lack of respect and attention they are giving to this issue. Meanwhile, pregnant women and their partners are suffering.

“The vast majority of maternity staff are vaccinated. Under a new, very welcome announcement, pregnant women are being prioritised for vaccination. Surely, this makes it safer to ensure that women can be supported throughout their pregnancy, in labour and in childbirth.

“The World Health Organisation believes that every woman has a right to a companion of choice during childbirth. The organisation strongly recommends supporting women to have a chosen companion during labour and childbirth; including during Covid-19.

“They say: ‘in the ‘new normal’ of Covid-19, the WHO strongly recommends that the emotional, practical and health benefits of having a chosen labour companion are respected and accommodated. The pandemic must not disrupt every woman’s right to high-quality, respectful maternity care.’

“This isn’t a luxury or an extra - the presence of partners is clinically beneficial. If the WHO are saying that this needs to be done, surely it can be and must be.

“The Minister for Health needs to urgently intervene and set out the minimum standards of partner access for all hospitals, including at appointments and scans, for the full duration of labour, and at every opportunity where it can be safe to do so.

“All pregnant women deserve to be properly supported throughout the duration of their pregnancy, as is their right."

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Sinn Féin member of the Public Accounts Committee, Imelda Munster TD, has described as ‘farcical’ statements today from RTÉ at the Committee that they were not familiar with ongoing issues of wage disparity between Raidió na Gaeltachta and RTÉ Radio 1 staff.

Teachta Munster said:

“Workers are effectively being penalised for practicing their trade through the Irish language.

“It is very telling that one of the primary reasons RTÉ were before the Committee today was discuss the implementation of a report arising out of workers losing out due to how they were categorised by RTÉ.

“That the Director General of RTÉ would not be aware of workers having recently described themselves in media as the ‘poor relation’ of their English language counterparts beggars belief.

“RTÉ have agreed to provide a supplementary report to the Committee on this matter, and I intend on seeing the matter through.

“RnaG provide a valuable national service, enjoyed by listeners far beyond our Gaeltacht regions, and its workers need to be respected as such.

Following the meeting, Teachta Mairead Farrell, TD for Galway West where Raidió na Gaeltachta is headquartered, said:

"Raidió na Gaeltachta is a vitally important national resource that will celebrate 50 years of broadcasting next year. The station has ensured that the lived experiences of Gaeltacht communities are not forgotten by our national broadcaster and that the richness of native Irish language dialects is recorded and preserved as well as maintaining a large non-Gaeltacht listenership across the country.

"Raidio na Gaeltachta has also provided employment and opportunities for Gaeltacht communities where unemployment has been traditionally very high.

"It is unacceptable for any kind of two tier pay system to operate in respect of English-language and Irish-language media. Having now acknowledged the situation, there is an onus on RTÉ to rectify it and ensure that Raidió na Gaeltachta employees are not treated any differently to their colleagues in RTÉ Radio 1 on the issue of pay."

 LEAGAN GAEILGE

 "Is acmhainn náisiúnta fíor-thábhachtach é Raidió na Gaeltachta a bhéas leath-chéad bliain ar an bhfód an bhliain seo chugainn. Chinntigh an stáisiún sin nár ligeadh pobail Ghaeltachta i ndearmad ag an gcraoltóir náisiúnta agus go ndearnadh saibhreas chanúintí na Gaeilge a thaifeadadh agus a chaomhnú mar aon le pobal éisteachta suntastach neamh-Ghaeltachta ó cheann ceann na tíre a thabhairt leo."

"Ina theannta sin, chruthaigh Raidió na Gaeltachta fostaíocht agus deiseanna i gceantair Gaeltachta a mbíodh ráta ard dífhostaíochta ag dul dóibh go traidisiúnta.

"Ní féidir linn glacadh le córas páidh dhá-chéim de chineál ar bith ó thaobh na meán Gaeilge is Béarla. Ós rud é go n-aithníonn RTÉ anois an fhadhb, tá dualgas orthu í a réiteach gan mhoill. Caithfidh siad cinntiú nach gcaitear níos measa le oibrithe Raidió na Gaeltachta ná lena gcomhghleacaithe i RTÉ Radio 1 maidir le cúrsaí páidh."

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Sinn Féin MLA Liz Kimmins has called for safety improvements on the A1 to be delivered as a matter of priority.

The Newry and Armagh MLA stated: 

“This week at the Infrastructure Committee, department officials gave a briefing on the crucial safety improvements required on the A1, one of the most dangerous roads on this island.

“The scheme includes the closure of over 100 gaps in the central reservation and construction of grade separated junctions on the road. 

“Officials have indicated that, with 18 months of procurement and three years of construction, it could take approximately five years following a commitment to proceed with the scheme, for the upgrade to be fully delivered. 

“For many, this time frame will feel like a long time for the delivery of road safety improvements required to save lives.   

“I welcome the progress made to date on this scheme but will continue to press for no unnecessary delays and for the absolute prioritisation of this crucially important scheme."

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Climate Action Darren O’Rourke TD says tomorrow's punitive carbon tax hike will drive up home heating bills at a time when families can least afford it.

The Meath East TD said introducing the hike when alternatives such as retrofitting are being denied to ordinary families, due to the government's pathetic rollout, adds insult to injury and will serve to drive ordinary families into poverty.

Teachta O'Rourke said:

"Budget 2021 saw the carbon tax rise from €26 to €33.50 a tonne, with similar increases locked in for the coming decade. The 2021 increase will apply to heating fuels from May 1st. This is a punitive measure and comes at a time people can least afford it.

“Sinn Féin has consistently said that imposing a carbon tax on ordinary people without providing alternatives is deeply unfair and will not help address our climate emergency. In fact it will turn people against it.

“This increase will push up the price of household essentials - gas to cook dinner, a litre of kerosene, a bag of coal or a bale of briquettes to heat the home and keep warm. 

"Coming at a time when hundreds of thousands of people are unemployed, this hike will drive more people into fuel and energy poverty.

“The carbon tax not a behavioural tax if there are no affordable alternatives for ordinary people to switch to. The government's retrofitting plan has been full of promises but, even accepting the challenges of Covid, rollout has been pathetic.

"Despite this, government think financially targeting them year on year with a carbon tax is going to somehow change this.

“Research commissioned by the Department of Social Protection shows clearly that the carbon tax increase will have a disproportionate impact on low income families and households.

"This is obvious but the government carries on with its 'all stick, no carrot' approach.

“This is anything but a Just Transition. It is a deeply flawed and regressive approach that epitomises this government’s approach to climate action. Ordinary people are hit again and again.

“For Sinn Féin, social justice must be at the centre of our approach to tackling climate change. We believe workers and families need to be helped transition to greener alternatives, not constantly targeted.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly will raise the issue of illegal protests with the Chief Constable at the Policing Board. 

The party’s policing spokesperson said: 

“I will be raising the issue of illegal protests with the Chief Constable at the Policing Board including last night’s protest on the Shore Road. 

“This was clearly an organised protest which saw approximately 250 people on the streets in a clear attempt to intimidate and raise tensions in the local community. 

“In recent weeks we have seen a number of these reckless and irresponsible protests taking place and the dangerous escalation into violence at the interfaces has been very alarming. 

“I will be asking what evidence gathering the police engaged in and how many people have been questioned, arrested or fined over these large protests.

“I am calling on all political leaders to call for an end to these illegal protests planned for this weekend. 

"The PSNI also has a responsibility to police in a proactive and preventative manner to keeps communities safe."

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Finance Pearse Doherty TD has criticised the Minister for Finance for refusing to replace his failed Stay and Spend Scheme with a scheme that would provide stimulus to the hospitality and tourism sectors in the months ahead.

He has called on the government to implement Sinn Féin’s voucher scheme proposal.

The government’s Stay and Spend Scheme has been an abject failure, with less than 1 percent of funding drawn down.

In June last year, Sinn Féin proposed a hospitality and tourism voucher scheme that would provide a multimillion stimulus to the sectors as they emerge from the pandemic.

Speaking today, Teachta Doherty said:

“As part of last year’s July Stimulus, the Minister for Finance launched the ‘Stay and Spend Scheme’.

“This scheme was to run from October 2020 to the 30th April, today.

“It has been an unmitigated failure, with less than 1 percent of the funding allocated to the scheme having been drawn down by March 4th.

“Worse still, 29 percent of all earners did not even qualify for the scheme on account of not having high enough incomes.

“This would have resulted in a ridiculous situation whereby two families could have received two meals in a restaurant, with one family paying 25 percent more for their meal simply because they are a lower income family.

“The scheme was badly designed, poorly targeted and has proved to be an unmitigated failure for the hospitality and tourism sector.

“News that the Fine Gael Minister for Finance has no plans to replace his failed scheme with an alternative for the hospitality and tourism sector is poor policy.

“In June last year, Sinn Féin proposed the rolling out of a voucher scheme that would be available to all citizens and provide a shot in the arm to the hospitality and tourism sectors.

“This would provide stimulus to these sectors with a multiplier effect that will help the sectors most impacted by the pandemic.

“In the months ahead, voucher schemes will be rolled out in the north that will provide a much needed boost to these sectors, as has been done in numerous jurisdictions in response to the pandemic.

“The government’s Stay and Spend Scheme was a total failure, as Sinn Féin warned it would be.

“The Minister for Finance should implement Sinn Féin’s voucher scheme proposal and provide a boost for workers and businesses as we emerge from the pandemic.”

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